Grocery store scales not always right

A grocery store scale (KOIN 6 News, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Grocery shoppers assume they get what they pay for — but that’s not always the case with grocery store scales.

Josh Nelson with the Oregon Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures program regularly tests and certifies scales at grocery stores. He said they “routinely” find scales are not quite correct. The inaccuracy sometimes benefits the shopper and other times benefits the store.

A salad bar at an area store (KOIN 6 News, file)
A salad bar at an area store (KOIN 6 News, file)

Large stores sometimes have more than 50 scales licensed with the state. When the scales are off, it’s generally not malicious. It’s often just wear and tear.

“If the scale does not pass an inspection test, we do have some actions we take,” Nelson told KOIN 6 News. “We’ll issue repair orders which give them an amount of time to repair the scale.”

He also said if the scale is out of tolerance or inaccurate enough to impact consumers, “we will take it out of service.” Inspectors then retest the scale after the store has it fixed.

18 inspectors make unannounced yearly inspections of commercially used weighing and measuring devices throughout Oregon. During grocery store visits, Nelson said, “they will typically have a few rejections in a store with a number of scales.”

State records obtained by KOIN 6 News found one inspector issued repair tags for 18 scales and 12 Portland-area grocery stories during December alone.

“Just in a short period of time, through use, they can go out of calibration,” he said.

An Oregon state license sticker on a grocery store scale (KOIN 6 News, file)
An Oregon state license sticker on a grocery store scale (KOIN 6 News, file)

Customers should keep their eyes open to check the weight is plainly displayed, that the scales start at zero — or less than zero, if there’s a container (TARE) that should be subtracted from the weight — and look for the weights and measures sticker showing the scale is licensed, tested and approved.

The weights and measures program is funded through state licensing fees. About six years ago, Oregon cut an additional program that had inspectors double-checking the real weight of items on store shelves, like a pre-packaged steak.

They’re planning to push lawmakers to bring that program back in 2015.

Other state licensed devices examined through the Weights and Measures program include gas pump meters, truck scales and railroad track scales.

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